The local arts collective Manual Cinema creates inventive live performance pieces that suggest silent movies materializing out of thin air. Employing actors, musicians, a variety of puppets, and a combination of live-feed cameras and overhead projectors, the group stages elaborate shadow plays whose action transpires on multiple screens. Watching its shows can be dizzying, as your eyes dart constantly between the performers and the onscreen activity. In Mementos Mori, which premiered in January at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the group took audiences on a journey from contemporary San Francisco to the afterlife and back. The show is at once an entertaining fantasy and a poignant meditation on death; at the performance I attended, both children and adults in the audience were in tears by the end. In August the group will remount Mementos at the Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival in the Netherlands, and in September it's headed to Duke University. Currently the busy ensemble is in New York for a run of a work entitled Ada/Ava.
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